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Music / Anti-Flag

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Anti-Flag was an American Punk Rock band from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, known for their strongly politically-oriented lyrics.

Formed in 1988 by vocalist/guitarist Justin Sane and drummer Pat Thetic, the band went through various line-ups, at one point including Justin's sister Lucy. By the mid-1990s, they consisted of Sane, Thetic and bassist/vocalist Andy Flag. Flag left after the recording of Die for the Government and was replaced by Sean Whelan, who was then subsequently replaced by Chris Head. However, Chris Head preferred guitar over bass, so the band expanded to four piece with the addition of bassist Jamie Cock. In early 1999, Jamie was replaced by Chris Barker (also known as #2) and the band has carried on with that line-up ever since, releasing their second album A New Kind of Army the same year. Another, titled Underground Network, followed in 2001.

The band began breaking into the mainstream with their 2003 album The Terror State. Their peak of popularity came with 2006 album For Blood and Empire. However, it also had their old fans calling them sellouts due to being released by a major label (especially as Anti-Flag are known for their anti-corporate lyrics). Even more backlash was aimed at their second major album, The Bright Lights of America due to some departure from their typical musical style. This album also completed their contract with RCA Records, so they subsequently moved to another independent label, SideOneDummy, and released The People or the Gun and The General Strike in 2009 and 2012 respectively. Their last three albums, American Spring, American Fall and American Reckoning have been released through Spinefarm Records.

In 2023 they announced that they were disbanding while in the middle of a tour, following allegations of sexual assault against the frontman Justin Sane.

Final Lineup:

  • Justin Sane - lead vocals, lead guitar (1988–89, 1992–2023)
  • Pat Thetic - drums, percussion (1988–89, 1992–2023)
  • Chris Head - rhythm guitar, backing vocals (1997–2023), bass (1997)
  • Chris "#2" Barker - bass, vocals (1999–2023)

Former members:

  • Lucy Fester - bass (1988–89)
  • Andy Flag - bass, vocals (1993–96)
  • Jamie Cock - bass, backing vocals (1997–99)

Studio albums:

  • Die for the Government (1996)
  • A New Kind of Army (1999)
  • Underground Network (2001)
  • The Terror State (2003)
  • For Blood and Empire (2006)
  • The Bright Lights of America (2008)
  • The People or the Gun (2009)
  • The General Strike (2012)
  • American Spring (2015)
  • American Fall (2017)
  • 20/20 Vision (2020)
  • Lies They Tell Our Children (2023)

Other notable releases:

  • North America Sucks (1995) (split album with d.b.s.)
  • Their System Doesn't Work for You (1997) (compilation of tracks from the above release and a few unreleased song)
  • Mobilize (2002) (an album consisting half of newly recorded studio songs and second half of live songs)
  • BYO Split Series Volume IV (2002) (split with The Bouncing Souls)
  • A Benefit for Victims of Violent Crime (2007) (EP, another half studio/half live release)

The Bright Tropes of America:

  • Album Title Drop: For Blood and Empire in "Confessions of an Economic Hit Man".
  • Always Chaotic Evil: According to "Anatomy of Your Enemy", this is how you should always present your enemy to other people.
    "Fifth step: Show this enemy in actions that seem strange, militant, or different. Always portray the enemy as non-human, evil, a killing machine."
  • Anti-Police Song: "Fuck Police Brutality"
  • Bowdlerize: Inverted for the single version of "1 Trillion Dollar$". The chorus on the album version ends with "fuck the world, kill 'em all", which was changed to "fuck the world, fuck 'em all".
  • Careful with That Axe: Screaming is not uncommon in their music.
  • Cluster F-Bomb - "Fuck the Flag" and "Your Daddy Was a Rich Man, Your Daddy's Fucking Dead" are prime examples.
  • Cover Version: "Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)", originally by Buzzcocks and "The Freaks, Nerds & Romantics" by Bouncing Souls. Both song appear on BYO Split done with the latter band, who themselves covered Anti-Flag's "That's Youth" here. They also covered some songs by The Clash live.
  • Fun with Acronyms: "Operation Iraqi Liberation".
  • Iwo Jima Pose: On the cover art for A New Kind of Army, where four punks raise an upside-down American flag.
  • Lighter and Softer: The Bright Lights of America, somewhat.
  • Long-Runner Line-up: Type 2 since 1999.
  • Lucky Charms Title: "1 Trillion Dollar$"
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "You've Got to Die for the Government", "Death of a Nation", "Rank-N-File", "Spaz's House Destruction Party", "Gifts from America",
  • Meaningful Name: Chris Barker tends to scream rather than sing, and at live shows, he's the one yelling out political slogans and hyping up the crowd.
  • Numerical Theme Naming: Chris #2.
  • One-Steve Limit: Chris Head and Chris Barker. It's also why the latter is called #2.
  • Pretender Diss: "Captain Anarchy" and "Punk by the Book".
  • Protest Song: Pretty much their entire catalogue! They even have a song with that title.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Turncoat! Killer! Liar! Thief!
    • This is! The end! For you my friend! I can't! Forgive! I won't forget!
  • Punny Name: Justin Sane and Pat Thetic.
  • Religion Rant Song: Their early song "Fuck the Pope".
  • Rhyming with Itself: From "A New Kind of Army"
    We're looking for a few good men
    We're looking for a few good womyn (this is not a misspelling, it's a feminist way of spelling the word)
    Who are not afraid to fight against tyranny
    But who refuse to fight with tyranny
  • Sampling: Among others they have sampled Martin Luther King Jr. or Mumua Abu Jamal.
  • Stage Names: Most members.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Justin Sane sings most of the band's songs, but current bassist Chris "#2" Barker and a former one Andy Flag also had their fair share of lead vocals, both pretty much creating a Vocal Tag Team with him, either switching vocals with each next song, or (especially in Chris' case) sharing leads on the same song.
    • Drummer Pat Thetic provided spoken vocals for "Anatomy of Your Enemy".
  • The Something Song: "Protest Song", "Mumia's Song", "Consumers Song", "This Is Not a Crass Song".
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Naturally, as a Punk Rock band. The simplicity of their music is somewhat referenced in "Indie Sux, Hardline Sux, Emo Sux, You Suck".
    Indie kids are bunch of snobs.
    They complain my timing's all off.
    I think timing is for stupid fucks.
    Why do they think I play punk rock?
  • Title Track: On A New Kind of Army, Underground Network and The Bright Lights of America. Played with on Die for the Government as the song is titled "You've Gotta Die for the Government".
  • Vocal Tag Team: Between Justin and either Andy Flag or Chris Barker depending on who is in the band. With Chris he sometimes even share lead vocals on the same song. Usually done in two ways - either Justin sings and Chris is yelling his lungs out, or both just scream.
  • War Is Hell: Another one of their common lyrical themes.